This Muslim-American reformer doesn’t believe a word of it.
Saudi women are 4th class citizens in a country that has been a major oil supplier to the U.S. for decades. Every aspect of their lives is dictated by male relatives, and this male dominance is enshrined in law and backed by an ultra-conservative brand of Islam. Women cannot drive, cannot work outside the home, and have few property rights. Rape victims are often blamed for being assaulted, as it’s considered their fault for being alone with a man in the first place – a big no-no in the Kingdom.
Women in Saudi have traditionally married whomever their father chooses, no matter what. If your father is deceased than a male guardian, such as a brother, uncle or even a younger male cousin – it doesn’t matter if he’s younger than you, as long as he’s a guy – will choose your husband for you. It doesn’t matter if the groom-to-be is toothless, fat as a cow or violent toward his other wives.
Now, Saudi media is reporting that Minister of Justice Walid Al-Samaani has directed officials who handle marriage contracts that they must have the woman’s consent before the legal process can go ahead. Borderless News Online could not independently verify this, and the Saudi embassy in the U.S. did not return phone calls.
But one well-known Muslim-American reformer says that if this is true, it’s just the latest charade in an ongoing Saudi con game. The Saudis are simply throwing a bone to the West in a bid to look like they are improving human rights, but not overhauling a system built on subjugating women, Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, told Borderless News Online.
Jasser noted that last year, the Saudis for the first time allowed women to be elected to public office. While the elections were trumpeted as a big step forward, the women were simply elected to municipal councils in small towns – low-level positions without any real power.